Making Sense of Sudan Revolts

I’ve been picking though the various updates on the demonstrations in Sudan, admiring the determination of the Sudanese activists to develop momentum to purge their country of its predatory government.

Here’s a brief summary of events and details that caught my attention:

June 16: Anti-government protests first erupted at the University of Khartoum over the removal of fuel subsidies and the sharply rising prices of basic commodities. Many blame these burdens and the 30% inflation rate on not just the loss of 75% of oil revenues after the secession of South Sudan but on the government’s vast investment in weaponry and support for its military and security apparatus. Critics also point out rampant corruption, police impunity and restrictions on media and other freedoms. Most of these latter issues have existed for years but were seldom publicly expressed with an eye toward change.

June 22:  (Sandstorm Friday) The protests spread beyond the core of student activists into several neighborhood of the capital. Sudanese police reportedly used tear gas and nerve gas that caused paralysis, twitching and suffocation among dozens of people leaving the Al-Anser mosque. Witness said that police prevented media from covering the protests.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets following Friday prayer in Al-Obied, the capital of North Kordofan State. Witnesses said the protesters were chanting, “we will not be ruled by Kafouri’s thief” in reference to President Al-Bashir who lives in Khartoum’s affluent neighborhood of Kafouri. Police used teargas and batons to disperse the protestors.

July 5: The cities of el Obeidh, Omdurman el Thowrah, Um Dwanban, Medani, Kosti and Port Sudan, some of which joined the protests recently, are continuing to protest. Demonstrations continue at the University of Khartoum. Security forces are reported to have used excessive force against the demonstrators. Hundreds of people have been beaten and wounded by machetes. Security services confiscate cameras and arrest any media attempting to document the arrests, threatening beatings and imprisonment.

Sugar has started to disappear from markets with the approach of Ramadan (when it is heavily consumed). There are long queues to buy bread, an essential of Sudanese meals.

The media in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have started publishing on the current protests – something they did not do in the past. One report noted: “It is also worth mentioning that women too have been actively participating in these protests. There are some areas where women have led demonstrations, for example Ombadah el Sabeel, and the initial spark that started student demonstrations at the University of Khartoum was ignited by female students.”

President Al-Bashir, who has been in power fro 23 years, has referred to the protestors as “bubbles,” “vagabonds”  “foreigners,” “germs” and, at one point, accused street children of fomenting the protests.

July 9: Activist groups say more than 2,000 people have been arrested since the protests began. Women activists have faced arrests and long-term detentions, an unprecedented response in Sudan.

July 11: Sudanese opposition party leaders are urging the Sudanese to ride the “wind of the Arab Spring” and take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations. Bashir, however, is adamant that these protests be put down. Bashir said, “They talk of an Arab Spring. Let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies.”


Here’s a recommendation from Christian Caryl in Foreign Policy.

“Governments that sponsor Arabic-language news broadcasts should step up their coverage… and boost signals to ensure that more Sudanese can receive their programming.”  And “Editors at the big Western media outlets should send more reporters to illuminate the latest events in Sudan — and not because that would support budding democrats. Quite simply, there’s a huge story [emphasis mine] in the making here. Omar al-Bashir is now Africa’s longest-serving autocrat. Like Qaddafi, he’s been the instigator of countless conflicts — not only against his own citizens in places like Darfur or South Kordofan, but also among his neighbors. (He even lent his support to Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army.) His fall would offer the opportunity of a fresh start not only to Sudan but to an entire region. Surely that’s a story worth covering.”

And all of us citizens here can pass the word. Media respond to buzz – if not to a critical story thumping them on the forehead.

Justice is sometimes served

Intisar Sharif Abdallah was released on 3 July after the Ombada court, in Omdurman,a suburb of the capital Khartoum, dropped all charges against her due to a lack of evidence. The court had re-tried her after the court of appeal of Omdurman had overturned her sentence of death by stoning.

In the initial trial, the Ombada court had convicted Intisar Sharif Abdallah of adultery on 13 May and sentenced her the same day to death by stoning. The judgement was based solely on Intisar Sharif Abdallah’s testimony, which she gave under duress after having been beaten by her brother. In the initial trial, Intisar Sharif Abdallah had been denied legal representation. After the 13 May sentence, lawyers representing Intisar Sharif Abdallah filed appeals to the appeal court of Omdurman. The appeal court on 20 June overturned the 13 May verdict and sentence, citingthe Ombada court’s violation of Intisar Sharif Abdallah’s constitutional right to legal defence. The court of Omdurman ordered that the case should be returned to the Ombada court for a re-trial.

At the 2 July re-trial at the Ombada court, the lawyers of Intisar Sharif Abdallah stated that she had retracted her testimony and was denying the charges. The following day the Ombada court dropped the case for lack of sufficient evidence, citing article 141 of the 1991 Criminal Procedure Act. Intisar Sharif Abdallah was released later on3 July. She no longer faces charges.